Black Hills Badlands Medley—Day One
The Bike Loaded for the Road. Waterproof Ortlieb Panniers; Tank Bag; Dry Bag with Sleeping Bag, Bag Liner, Sleeping Pad, and Tent in Compression Bag; Red Tipped Tube behind Dry Bag is PVC Containing Tent Poles; Nelson Rigg Waterproof Tailbag (with Homemade Internal Support that Later I'd Discard); One Gallon Rotopax Gas beneath Tailbag, One Litre Each Side of Gas for Cooking and Extra for Bike Mounted on Pillion Pegs; White Tube on Crash Bars Holds Tire Tools; and Black Bag on Fender is a Spare Innertube. Tires are Shinko 804/805s.
I left Lake Wales at about 1:30 am. My decision to wear a sweatshirt paid off. Getting ready I was so hot, but after a half hour riding I was cooled down and had stopped perspiring and was comfortably warm. It’s always surprising how cool nights in the South can get when they start out stifling. By sunrise I was wishing I had even added another layer (Why is it always colder just AFTER the sun rises?). A stop for breakfast at Waffle House gave the time needed for the chill to dissipate. I still wore the sweatshirt until almost noon.
I rode up along the empty west coast of Florida stretching from Brooksville to Perry then headed north to I-10 to make some time getting west and past Tallahassee. So early, traffic was light, even on the interstate and all the other roads were so off the beaten track that they were almost empty all day.
Once sufficiently past Tallahassee I headed north in Alabama on rural state and county roads, and as I went, I always aimed to average north-northwest toward Tuscaloosa and avoiding Montgomery. The route, coincidentally, put me on the same path the civil rights marchers had taken from Selma to Montgomery back in the sixties.
As I approached Selma, a quite small town, I almost automatically took the truck route bypass. After my right turn for the bypass, I quickly did a U-turn to go through the town instead. Approaching the village, there in front of me was the gateway into town, the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lately this was referenced again and again in the media with the death of Congressman John Lewis, one of the original marchers, and because of Black Lives Matter coverage, and images of this bridge during the march and later with President Obama, senators, and other government representatives recreating the crossing were broadcast everywhere. It was chilling crossing that bridge and thinking about its place in history. What a lucky route choice I had made.
From there, I wanted to head toward Lake Lurleen State Park on the northwest side of Tuscaloosa, without getting in its city traffic. So, I chose a spider web of minor, three-number state and county roads that trended north from Selma and west of the big city. I only had to turn around once, having missed County Road 191, whose sign was covered with kudzu. Still, I made numerous stops to check the phone GPS to see if it agreed with where I thought I was. Some of the roads, while paved, were paved as a kind of afterthought, with chip seal loosely applied. The edges of the roads often touched the forest and weeds without a shoulder. But by mid-afternoon I had arrived.
It was such a chore finding it and getting there, I decided I would not go back out for dinner food and beer, and instead, made do with a bottle of water and a small packet of trail mix from the park office and a melted granola bar I had in my tail bag.
It was sweltering, so I walked to the lake and took a swim for a quick combination cooldown and shower, although the lake water was tepid. By the time I had walked back to camp all but the shorts I had worn swimming were dry.
I sat by the fire ring listening to cicadas and watching the night come on. I was exhausted after the almost 700 miles I had ridden that day and hit the sack as soon as the sun had set and full darkness had fallen. I hoped the next day would be easier.